The Russian Olympic Committee skaters weren’t perfect during the final day of the Olympic figure skating team event, but their dominance still couldn’t be touched and they earned the gold medal on Monday.
The team held the lead entering the day and never relinquished it. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the pairs competition and finished in second in the ice dance, and while her result was ultimately irrelevant to ROC’s final score, it was Kamila Valieva who stole the show in women’s singles and capped the team’s victory.
The 15-year-old Valieva became the first woman in Olympic history to land a quadruple jump during her free skate. And her program didn’t have just one quad — it had three. Valieva executed the first two with ease but fell on the third, a quad toe loop.
Still, her historic performance received a 178.92 — more than 30 points better than the second-place finisher Kaori Sakamoto.
“If that performance didn’t inspire the whole world to take up ice skating, I don’t know what would,” two-time Olympian and figure skating commentator Johnny Weir said about Valieva on the NBC broadcast.
With a final score of 65, nine points behind ROC, the United States won its first silver medal in the event, after taking home bronze in the previous two Olympics. It was the country’s highest-ever point total in the event.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates earned the top scores of the day in the ice dance with a nearly flawless performance, and Karen Chen’s fourth-place result in the women’s free skate secured the podium position. Chen, who struggled in her short program on Sunday, later said she was surprised to hear she had clinched the silver.
“Really? I had no idea,” Chen said. “Honestly, this whole entire time I’ve just been focusing on my training and trying not to overwhelm my mind with stuff like that.”
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier had a shaky start for the Americans in the pairs event, finishing in fifth place out of five, following a mistake-riddled effort. Japan earned the bronze medal in the event.
Figure skating continues on Tuesday in Beijing with the men’s short program, as the individual events get underway. American Nathan Chen, who was part of the silver-winning squad, is the overwhelming favorite for gold.